Workers at a French tyre factory threatened with closure have taken two company executives hostage and promised to hold them until given “enormous amounts of money”.
The “kidnapping” was carried out at the Goodyear plant in north Amiens that was at the centre of an international spat a year ago after an American businessman called the workers there lazy.
The two men – the firm’s production manager, Michel Dheilly, and the human resources director, Bernard Glesser – were due to meet union representatives on Monday morning.
However, 200 workers also turned up to pressure management and refused to let the executives leave, blocking the door of the meeting room with a tractor tyre.
The Goodyear factory is due to close throwing 1,173 workers out of work. Staff were due to receive redundancy notices this month.
Union leaders said that the atmosphere was “calm” and that the men had been allowed to keep their mobile phones and had been given water.
"Even if we have to wait three or four days, they are not getting out," Franck Jurek of the CGT union told RTL radio. "We’re going to find mattresses, all of us, and sleep here.
"We want to go back to the negotiating table to seek a voluntary departure plan and see if someone will take it [the factory] over. If there’s nobody, then [we want] a departure plan for everyone with an enormous amount of money."
Jurek added: “We’ve lost all legal means of recourse, so now we’re changing tack.”
Last year, France’s minister for industrial regeneration, Arnaud Montebourg, wrote to American businessman Maurice “Morry” Taylor Jr, the head of the tyre company Titan International, asking if he would like to take over the Goodyear factory in the struggling industrial heartland of northern France.
Taylor, a former Republican presidential candidate nicknamed “the Grizz”, responded with the written equivalent of two fingers. “Do you think we’re stupid?,” he replied. “I’ve visited this factory several times. The French workers are paid high wages but only work three hours. They have one hour for their lunch, they talk for three hours and they work for three hours.”
He added: “You can keep your so called ‘workers’.”
Montebourg refused to comment on the response but Goodyear workers and their representatives said they were shocked at the insult.
"Mr Taylor is talking about a factory he was praising a few weeks ago," the CGT’s Mickaël Wamen said at the time.